Mack always had a diverse and interesting array of friends. Due to her involvement in several competitive sports over the years and her participation on so many teams, she met a lot of different people, and she developed friendships within each of her different peer groups. She had her growing-up friends, her school chums, her basketball pals, her fellow golfers, and her softball girls, among others. She always opened her heart and her arms (for her famous hugs) to people with whom she interacted. Mack truly enjoyed popping in and out of her seasonal teams, and she did it with such ease and with a beautiful grace; but she also collected a very special group of remarkable people on whom she relied for deep and lasting friendship and true love and acceptance. And now I find that Mack’s amazing collection of best friends have become a crucial element of my own survival.
When Mack was growing up, she was so busy all of the time with her sports that her small amount of private time at home became very precious to her. As she got older, she guarded that time pretty fiercely, so I understood that the friends who spent time at our house were the people she held most dear. Mack always was a great judge of character, and the friends who spent family time with us were unique and extraordinary people. I enjoyed talking with them, getting to know them, laughing with them, and teasing them. When Mack had these friends at the house, I would occasionally plop down on the couch with them while they were watching their TV shows, sit on the kitchen counter for a spell when they were making cookies and an epic mess, or plop on the end of Mack’s bed while they were playing a video game. Right now, I could ramble on for days about how fun it was for me to play chauffeur for them before they could drive themselves. I loved listening to Mack and her friends laugh and sing together, and I never tired of hearing their chatter late into the night (even though I sometimes yelled at them to quiet it down). Mack never complained about my active interest in her friends; and, in fact, I believe she appreciated my wholehearted approval of the ones she chose to hold so close. She loved them, and she was glad that her Momma Bear loved them, too.
Every day I grieve the loss of my daughter, but my heart also breaks for those who called Mack “best friend.” In losing her, these remarkable young people she loved so well have lost not only a cherished friend, but a beloved sister. They have lost a non-judgmental confidant, a fierce and funny champion, and a bridesmaid. I have an overwhelming need to know that Mack’s best friends are safe and well, to keep in touch with them, to hear their memories and their stories about our lost girl, and to comfort them if I can. Facebook and email and text messages offer periodic and important connections that I cherish, but I have also found strength in seeing Mack’s best friends in person. Giving them one of Mack’s famous hugs brings me some solace. Over the past months, I have cherished a brief conversation with Justice after her college basketball game at Eastern Illinois University; I have had the pleasure of catching up with Maggie over drinks in Springfield and sharing a meal with Meagan before she left for Scotland; and I was the very grateful beneficiary of Ali and Jackie’s trip to St. Louis to see me.
Recently, I traveled to Chapel Hill for some research, and I shared some quality time with Kailey on the campus of the University of North Carolina, where she is a student. Kailey was studying abroad in France the same semester that Mack was in Spain; and these close childhood friends, softball buddies, and Glee aficionados had big plans for some European sightseeing together. But making new life memories abroad with a cherished hometown friend was not to be. Instead, Kailey had to grieve for Mack in France, without her family and Springfield friends around her; and missing Mack’s memorial service was heartbreaking for her. I hope that spending a little time with me helped her at least half as much as it helped me, because seeing her face and sharing a long walk, a hearty meal, and some sweet memories of Mack did me a whole hell of a lot of good.
There is something comforting, I suppose, in being in the presence of people who loved and respected Mack so very completely. But it is also true, I believe, that Mack would want me to keep her special and very best of friends close. They were inestimably important to her. They had her heart. She would want me to give them my heart as well. I can say with complete sincerity that holding them snug in my heart is going to be one of the easiest things I do as I move forward without Mack. Keeping them close will bring me much solace. And I hope that in knowing I hold them so dear, Mack’s best friends will have a little solace as well.
Here are some of my favorite photos of Mack and Kailey…
and a Facebook exchange from 2010…
Kailey’s beautiful tribute to her lost friend: http://kaileytrieger.weebly.com/blog/in-loving-memory-of-mackenzie-mcdermott
And, of couse, stay tuned for future blogs about Mack’s amazing best friends.